Daz Contreras is a freelance investigative reporter looking for the next big story. And he thinks he’s found it in a glut of wildland fires seemingly set across the southwest. Pilot Blaine Darby, a veteran who now helps fight fire from the sky, equally captivates him. He’s reclusive and less than fond of the press, but he wants to figure out who is starting the fires. And Daz has a theory. The only thing Blaine has to do is take him for a ride so he can prove it.
But while they’re trying to unravel the mystery behind the fires, Blaine still has a job to do. And Daz gets a dose of reality when he learns exactly how dangerous Blaine’s work can be. What starts out as respect and admiration for a man Daz calls hero leads to something deeper. He only has to convince Blaine that taking a chance on love is worth the risk.
Well I’m not quite sure where to start with this review. Normally I’d enjoy a romance set amidst the dangers of fighting fires and piloting. But Red Tails in the Sunset failed to come together for me, either as a story or a romance. Let’s start with the characters. Daz and Blaine are both flat creations, with little purpose beyond furthering the story. If we’re supposed to care about them, then we’re never given enough information to do so. They have zero chemistry and any romance between them is never realistic or fully formed. Daz appears to have some sort of fascination with or hero worship of Blaine, but rather than admirable, it comes off as slightly creepy. There is no doubt Blaine is a critical asset in the battle against wildland fires and he’s commendable, yet there is no substance to him beyond this. There is almost nothing to bring either he or Daz further into the story and they often feel like caricatures, going through rote motions. The pacing is fine and it is a quick read, even for a novella. I credit part of this due to one dramatic scene that really drew me in. Had the rest of the story carried forward with this same momentum, it could have been a much different and much more engaging read.
The writing in Red Tails in the Sunset is fairly crisp and straight forward and the plot, such as it is, could have worked on a basic level save for the arson investigation, the thrust of which nearly cripples the story. I realize this is fiction and as a result allowances must be made with regards to the plot. There’s a limit though. The author’s conclusion regarding the arson feels absurd (
foreign terrorists are setting fires to distract U.S. resources and these terrorists are discovered from the air because they are dressed like Middle Eastern men
). I even did some research of my own to look into the theory presented and it comes off as a thinly veiled conspiracy theory. And that’s fine, but it doesn’t hold up an already narrow plot.
Additionally, there were several pejorative terms for those of Middle Eastern descent used in the book. And while I suppose you could argue that they were used in context, they were glaring in their presence and felt unnecessary and gratuitous. Had the focus remained on the firefighters and the dangers they endure, either on the ground or in the sky, I feel like the plot would have been stronger and it could have helped balance out the weak characterizations.
There isn’t much to recommend Red Tails in the Sunset. Portions of the plot are flimsy, the characters ineffectual, and the book contains more than one offensive (at least to me) and racially derogatory term. All in all, I can’t recommend this one.